When I think about the weekends that I used to spend at the office or behind the computer catching up, it makes me cringe. I did it to make the following week easier. I did it to make more money. I did it to prove what a hard worker I was. I did it because I felt guilty for falling behind and I did it because I had way too much to do. All legitimate reasons, but none of my catching up ever got me caught up.
There was always more.
The illusion of catching up goes something like this: If I take a full day/weekend/week and abandon all the things I enjoy doing, I can get everything done that I feel guilty about not doing before. Then I will feel better, everyone will love me and all will be right with the world. And, everything will be complete.
The reality is that catching up never ends. There will always be more.
Stop the madness.
It will all get done, or it won’t. Either way, you will be ok. You can start stopping the madness by calling a catch up truce with the following:
- Email. The more you send, the more you receive. (otherwise known as vicious circle) Instead of saving it for later, or checking email on your phone 10 times a day, but never responding, do one solid email triage a day. Don’t respond to anything that doesn’t require a response. Be brief when responding to the email that does. If you have trouble with brevity, set a timer and challenge yourself to answer any email in 5 sentences or less.
- Sleep. Staying up late to catch up on things works against you. You can’t sleep an extra 3 hours on Saturday, to make up for the sleep you lost on Wednesday. If you routinely go to sleep and wake up at a similar time, you will be more alert, focused and effective. After a week of jet lag, I understand how sleep loss can affect your day-to-day activities. Sacrificing sleep and compromising other health habits to catch up will put you further behind when you don’t have the energy you need for your work and life.
- The news. If you haven’t read the paper or watched the news in days, you don’t need a CNN binge to catch up. There is rarely anything new about the news. All you can expect is more hype, stress and fear. (Breaking news is broken.) Recycle your old newspapers and magazines. Turn off the TV and go outside. You’ll learn more about yourself and the world there.
- Blog reading. If your blog reader is full and you have hundreds or thousands of posts waiting for your attention, start over. Declare blog reading bankruptcy and hit “clear all”. This might be a good time to assess what’s in your blog reader too. Did you add a paleo blog last year and now you are more interested in updates from a vegan blogger? Were you following a blogger that changed focus and lost your interest? It’s ok to remove blogs from your feed. There is more goodness to come. Make room for what means most to you right now.
- Social media. If you haven’t checked Twitter or Facebook in days, you are not obligated to read everything that was posted while you were gone. You didn’t miss a thing and chances are, whatever you missed will be repeated.
- Entertainment. You don’t need the latest TV, books, movies, games, music to be completely fulfilled. It will all be available if and when you are ready and if you are never ready, that’s ok too. Letting it go feels so much better than keeping up with it all.
1. Be present
If you are paying attention to what didn’t get done yesterday or what needs to get done tomorrow, your full attention can’t be on what’s going on right now. How can you be your most creative, most interested, and do your best work, when you have anxiety about the undone? Choosing to be present sounds easy, but it’s not. To practice, set a timer for 15 minutes and agree to set your worry aside for that short amount of time while you engage in the here and now.
2. Forget about F.O.M.O.
The reason you want to keep your hands in everything and be completely up to date is F.O.M.O. (fear of missing out) You want to read every email, blog post, tweet, and Facebook update so you don’t miss anything. Maybe F.O.M.O. is why you watch the news, catch up on gossip and have TV marathons.
The problem with F.O.M.O. is that the more you know, have, do … the more you know, have, do. Then, it’s not enough to see all the tweets and Facebook updates, but you have to click on all the links and watch all the YouTube videos and then comment or respond so everyone knows you are all caught up. After catching up on Facebook, you might notice that you are way behind on everything else.
Stop. You won’t miss a thing and you will enjoy what you know, have, and do even more.
All of these strategies may help you curb the catching up, but none of it will matter if you don’t recognize why you have to spend so much time catching up and why you always feel like you are falling behind. The answer is simple. It’s too much. The remedy? Less. Own less. Do less.
The road from too much to much less is not always easy, but necessary for your health, relationships and happiness.
If you don’t have time keep up, you definitely don’t have time to catch up. Instead, let go and start fresh. That might mean declaring email or blog reader bankruptcy, being wildly uninformed for a while, addressing your fear of missing out, and will most certainly mean letting go.
Above all, by ending the game of catching up, you may discover that you already have everything you need. The secret to having it all is recognizing that you already do.